Power Of Attorney: The Basics

Powers of attorneys are basic estate plan documents which are essential for your overall estate plan. At some point it is likely we will need someone's assistance because of age, temporary or permanent incapacity, or just convenience, to assist us in day-to-day decisions and affairs. You can modify these documents at any time, as long as you have capacity to do so, as your circumstances change. Unlike a will or trust, these documents terminate at the time of your death, and the powers given to your agent expire.

No one can establish this for you. If you no longer have capacity to execute a power of attorney, a guardianship may need to be established to see that you are properly cared for and a court-appointed individual responsible to oversee your health care and financial matters.

The Health Care Agent

The basic documents for allowing someone to assist or have authority to make decisions regarding your health are through the health care power of attorney and living will. The determination of when the designation goes into effect is made by your doctor or health care provider. As long as you have capacity to do so, your health care decisions remain in your control. If your health is impaired, for example in the event of an automobile accident or stroke, having this document available will allow your designated agent the authority needed to oversee your care. Once you recover, you again will oversee your own care.

Durable power of attorney for health care: Your health care power of attorney designates your agent to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to make them for yourself. Your health care power of attorney also instructs your agent to follow your wishes as contained in your living will. You may also provide written instructions to your agent as to future medical care.

Living will: A living will is your declaration under Ohio law that you do not want your life to be artificially prolonged or heroic measures taken to sustain your life at the time of a terminal illness or when you are in a permanently unconscious state. Your living will requires that your attending physician notify your selected agent in the event that the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining treatment is being considered.

Asset Management Assistance And Other Matters

Your durable general power of attorney and nomination of guardian is a legal document that allows you to name another individual to take all legal action on your behalf in your name, in the same capacity as you could do for yourself. This durable general power of attorney may allow your family to avoid the necessity of going through the procedure of establishing a guardianship through the probate court should you no longer be able to manage your own affairs. If a guardianship is required, this document provides for your selection of the person to serve as your guardian.

Durable power of attorney for finances: A durable general power of attorney is an estate planning tool to allow your agent to act on your behalf. Therefore, the choice is an important one because the named agent will have the power to transfer your property, access bank accounts, etc. As you may expressly provide in the document. Our attorneys will review with you the general and specific powers you may wish to authorize your agent to have. General powers would include payment of bills and filing tax returns. Specific powers may include allowing gifts to be made to family members or establishing a trust on your behalf in the future. The authority granted by the durable general power of attorney ceases upon your death.